Sue's Blog

Disruptive school behaviour and food additives

Disruptive behaviour in Australian classrooms is some of the worst in the world. It is such a huge issue there is now a senate enquiry.

Why don’t they consider food additives? Australia has some of the worst additive overuse in the world. It is time our government stood up to the food industry!

See some quotes below from our submission.

There is a proven practical way to reduce disruption in Australian classrooms

If you don’t believe us, please view these three short videos.  These were large interventions we made at three separate schools, each with amazing results.

VPalmersIsland (4:51)

Principal’s quote: “They were able to relate better to their peers in general and also to concentrate better in class which means that you’re having fewer behavioural problems”

Teacher 1 quote: ”It’s just been much more harmonious in the classroom and that’s had an effect on the classroom as a whole”

Teacher 2 quote: “…far more sociable, and amiable with each other and settled”

Teacher 3 quote: “I found that certain kids had a longer attention span, and they were able to concentrate and work more effectively”

VNanaGlen (3:07)

Principal’s quote: “Over this last week, we haven’t had one student on detention. That speaks volumes for itself.” 

Teacher quote: “They listen to instructions better and they’re not so impulsive… they think before they act”.

VCoomaNorth2007 (3:25)

Teacher 1 quote: ”…the more active students in the classroom - they’ve been more settled, definitely …  I looked over a sea of calmness, it was wonderful”

Teacher 2 quote: “One student in particular that I had a lot of trouble with, a very fidgety child, couldn’t focus, couldn’t work, now sits quietly the whole time … reading a lot better, writing on the lines in his workbooks instead of all over the page and he’s a lot more pleasant to be around and less disruptive in the class… ”

Overseas studies show what happens if you reduce food additives fed to children

The largest study of its kind ever done (8) with over a million students at 803 New York schools showed that removal of additives from school meals was strongly associated with a reduction of learning disabilities and improved academic achievement.

“7.5% of a million children – 75,000 children – ... “had become able to perform at the level normal for their age. These were the children that no other efforts had helped”.

“No other school district could be located which reported such a large gain above the rest of the nation so quickly in a large population”.

The massive UK Southampton study (9) in 2007 found that a range of artificial colourings and a preservative could cause significant behavioural effects detectable by parents. Researchers concluded:

“normal, healthy children” can be affected, not just in those with learning or behaviour problems.

“children’s ability to benefit from schooling” can be reduced by additives.

As a result, since 2010, many artificially coloured foods in the EU carry a mandatory warning which has virtually removed such food dyes from their food, but this has not occurred in Australia:

WARNING: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”

The longest running study (10) was a five-year trial at Wisconsin's Appleton Central Alternative High School for troubled teenagers who were initially described as "rude, obnoxious and ill-mannered".  Designed by former parole officer Barbara Stitt and her biochemist husband Paul Stitt, the program replaced vending machines and junk food by bottled water, fresh juice and healthy preservative-free cafeteria meals and snacks.

"According to Principal LuAnn Coenen, negative behaviors such as vandalism, drug and weapons violations, dropout and expulsion rates, and suicide attempts are virtually non-existent."

From the award winning documentary Super Size Me:

"…they've changed things around, not through discipline but through diet" 

Vappleton  (1:40

… (As an example, the bread preservative that is now often hidden) …
propionates have been proven to affect irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in children (11) and most recent research describes neurotoxicity of propionates linked to autism and dementia (12).

Here is the verbatim response from a 15 year old student (13):

Mother: "Do you find 282 [the bread preservative] affects you that badly?"

Teenager: "HELL YEAH, I find a huge almost uncontrollable anger building up inside me, for no reason, and I feel I just want to punch something or someone.”

And from a teacher (14)

"I used to get very angry quickly and then in a split second I would feel like crying my eyes out ... If the kids in my class were feeling like I was, I can understand why they behaved the way they did.”

 The appropriate educational and public health response would be to reduce
the use of food additives that contribute to behavioural and physical disorders!

What you can do

See our full submission (with references above) - you are welcome to make your own submission by 31 March 2023 here.